Hotel Online  Special Report
Ratings vs Guest Satisfaction

February 2005

Do you sometimes see a disparity between guests’ wants and the ratings organizations’ expectations? Are the inspectors telling you that a high rating requires services, amenities, and/or physical enhancements that your guests have never mentioned?  Do you sometimes feel forced to choose between 24-hour room service which your guests have never mentioned, or some back of the house renovations that neither your guests nor an inspector will ever see but will have a direct and very positive impact on employee efficiency and guest delivery?

This is certainly not the intent of the rating organizations; they, like the industry, have a vested interest in maintaining credibility with the traveling public.  We believe that any conflict between guests’ expectations and rating requirements, either real or perceived, is an unintended consequence.

AAA’s original goal of developing and publishing its Diamond Ratings Guidelines was to standardize the rating process and ensure greater consistency.  We tried to be as precise as possible in establishing what physical facilities, amenities, and services were expected at each rating level, and I still believe we did a very good job.  This effort received invaluable input and aid from the industry.  The continued cooperation and open dialogue between the rater and the rated is an integral part of any successful program.

In my professional, albeit admittedly biased opinion, the resultant ratings were more consistent and more accurately represented the current state of the industry.  This was particularly so at 4 and 5 Diamond properties.

The inherent and unavoidable problem with any standardized rating system is two-fold.  First, there must be some allowance for personal on-site objective interpretation of the standards by the inspector.  Second, the complexity of today’s lodging and dining choices exacerbates the difficulty of applying very precise standards to the seemingly endless array of properties.  Is it fair, or even possible, to apply the same standards to a 50-unit downtown historic “boutique” inn as are applied to a 500-unit resort with a variety of accommodations and recreation choices?

What brings the guest to a particular type of property?  Do guests have the same expectations at the urban boutique inn as at the remote mega-resort?  Do they want or expect the same services and atmosphere?   

If we aspire to complete ratings integrity and maximum consistency, we could try to find a way to make “one size fit all” by applying one set of standards to the ever increasing array of properties.  We question the practicality of this approach.  One alternative is to modify the standards to address the different types of lodgings.  AAA has tried to address this problem with its property classification system.  This complex system involves a basic classification by style of operation, followed by “overall concept”, further segmentation by service level expectation, and finally by a sub-classification if applicable.  Sound complicated?

If you think just understanding it is complicated, imagine trying to discuss it with a property owner or manager who is already justifiably displeased with his/her rating.  An equally difficult, if not irreconcilable, part of the problem is that the millions of travelers who use the various rating guides do not always read the complete property information description.  Too often they read only the number of stars, diamonds, and dollars.  

This is in no way intended as a criticism; on the contrary, these millions of travelers are the only reason we exist.  Without their continued support and patronage, there would no need for lodging and dining operations and therefore no need for ratings.  We believe it is absolutely essential that we continue to improve our services to meet their needs and retain their trust.  In the long term, this is possible through collaboration between the industry and the rating organizations.  We are confident that the rating organizations will continue to update and modify their procedures and standards to meet these new challenges.  

In the interim, we advise our clients to determine exactly what their guests want and continue to provide it, while balancing that against changing industry standards.  We never advise a client to provide a service, an amenity, or any physical enhancement solely to meet a rating requirement.   We always try to find a way to achieve both goals.  We also point out the potential consequences of various courses of action so the client can make the final decision based on the best available information.

We suggest the same approach to all.  You can do it on your own, or you can seek outside help.

Either way, we are confident that the industry will continue to do what it has done so well for so long; serving your guests by always putting them first.


Cheryl Griggs & Harry Nobles

Also See: Our "Pick of the Month" / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
5 Star vs 5 Diamond: What’s the Difference? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
Strategic Alliance Announced, Committed to Hospitality Excellence / August 2004
Family Resorts: Suggested Strategies / Cheryl Griggs / July 2004
Are Small Resorts Unfairly Treated by the AAA and Mobil Rating Criteria / July 2004
Designing For Optimum Global Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / June 2004
QualAsia Formed to Provide Authoritative Organization to Inspect and Evaluate Hotels Across Asia; Harry Nobles Appointed Chairman of New Asian Hotel Rating Service / May 2004
Validity of Online Hotel Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / April 2004
Resorts Ratings Redux / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2004
Are Your Trainers Trained? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Grigg /  January 2004 
The Language of Service / Cheryl Griggs / October 2003
Hotel Renovation Ideas vs AAA Ratings Criteria / Harry Nobles / October 2003
New Employee Orientation: Necessity or Luxury?  /  July 2003
Save the Best - Replace the Rest / July 2003
AAA and Mobil Ratings As a Sales Tool / May 2003
How Well Do You Know Your Competitor? / May 2003
Our Favorite Hotel?  / March 2003
The Current Value of AAA Hotel Ratings / Feb 2003
Stars and Diamonds; Some Similarities and Some Differences / January 2003
AAA's Delay: Good or Bad? / July 2002
Timing Is Everything, Or Is It? / July 2002 
Boutique Hotels: Have They Gone Too Far / May 2002
People Really Do Make the Difference / Jan 2002
What Is a Boutique Hotel? / Dec 2001
The Non-negotiable Traits of Leaders / Oct 2001 
How Important is Service? / Sept 2001
Front Desk Service Mistakes / Aug 2001
Food & Beverage Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001
Bell Staff Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001 
Attitude vs Aptitude / June 2001
Female Business Travelers' Expectations / June 2001
Is Outsourcing Your Training a Viable Alternative? / June 2001
Unique Identity + Consistent Service = Success / May 2001
AAA Standards vs  Guests' Expectations / May 2001
Are Your Guests Better Informed Than Your Staff? / April 2001
Are U.S. Hotels Rated Differently From Other North American Hotels? / April 2001
The Design Theme - AAA / Mobil Ratings Connection / March 2001
Attitude Can Make the Difference / January 2001
How Should Casino-Hotels be Rated? / Dec 2000
Does AAA Rate Resorts Fairly? / Nov 2000
Is Your Property Suffering From Design Deficiency? / Nov 2000 
The Future of AAA Ratings / September 2000
What Is Your Optimum AAA Rating / August 2000
If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating…../ June 2000
Are AAA Ratings Always Accurate and Objective / May 2000
Creating Atmosphere / Jan 2000
What is "Atmosphere"? / December 1999
Maintaining Your AAA Rating / Nov 1999
Earning a AAA Rating vs Maintaining a AAA Rating: Which Is More Difficult?  / Oct 1999
Can Outstanding Service Offset Hotel Physical Deficiencies in the Rating Systems? / Harry Nobles / June 1999 
Consistency: The Hallmark of a Fine Hotel / September 1999
Who Should Train Your Employees  / Aug 2000 
Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 
Key to Success: Training + Follow-Up / June 2000
The Legend of the Pineapple / Harry Nobles / Feb 1999 
To Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting Index Page

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